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Reviews: Zomes' Earth Grid

Zomes' Earth Grid

Dischord Records cult favorites Lungfish haven’t released anything since 2005’s Feral Hymns, but its members continue to channel that group’s unique energy into their recent projects. Punk rock prophet Daniel Higgs has explored distorted mouth-harp, cosmic gospel folk, and meditative chants in a string of predictably confounding solo albums. These ventures recently culminated in a welcome return to rock with The Skull Defekts’ excellent Peer Amid. Former bassist Nathan Bell, who anchored personal favorite The Unanimous Hour, occasionally echoes Lungfish’s instrumental plateaus in Human Bell. But the most elemental evocation of Lungfish’s repetitive melodies comes in guitarist Asa Osborne’s solo project Zomes, now on its second LP, Earth Grid.

There’s no getting around the surface-level simplicity of Osborne’s Zomes. Each song is a modal exploration using keyboards and tape-looped drum beats. There’s no clutter of overdubs, no latticework of intersecting melodies, no polyrhythmic swirl. Songs last as long as necessary—ranging from fifty seconds to five minutes—although a two-minute composition may feel just as long its four-minute counterpart. Recorded at home to cassette, Earth Grid’s muted lo-fi palette gives a feeling of a third-generation dub or a live performance recorded by a downstairs neighbor.

Yet much like Lungfish, the mesmerizing quality of Zomes’ meditative compositions defies their innate simplicity. The droning, lightly distorted keyboard melodies are curiously inviting, with only a brief trill at the beginning of “Step Anew” approaching abrasion. The fourteen songs fit together as one piece, yet each one offers a tonal variation. Listening to the appropriately titled lead-off track “Openings” will give you a good sense of what’s to come, but each song could be pointed out as a valid starting point.

Zomes’ Earth Grid makes the most sense when viewed as a chronological aberration in Lungfish’s evolutionary arc. Instead of being a postscript to that group’s gradual dismissal of unnecessary traits, Zomes is the primordial goo which evolved into the mighty beast. This circular development is perfectly appropriate for Lungfish, especially given the epochal “Creation Story” from Rainbows from Atoms (“As a fish realized it held a monkey inside itself / And expelled it on the beach in a larval salamander form”). The clear benefit of such prior contextual knowledge makes Earth Grid less of a starting-point recommendation for the greater world of Lungfish than The Skull Defekts’ Peer Amid, but embrace that circularity: at some point you’ll come back here and begin anew.